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Volume 19 Issue 7 - April 2014

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In Canada several of

In Canada several of gamelan music’s trailblazers were composers.They introduced it to both concert halls and universities. In 1983the Toronto-based composer Jon Siddall formed the independentprofessional group Evergreen Club Gamelan playing on a Sundanesegamelan degung named Si Pawit. Three years later compositionprofessor José Evangelista founded the Atelier de gamelan del’Université de Montréal, its students playing in Balinese angklung andgong kebyar ensembles. Around the same time Vancouver composerMartin Bartlett brought a complete Central Javanese gamelan to SimonFraser University and used it to conduct the “Music of Two WorldsSummer Music Intensives.” Participants not only learned the techniquesof Indonesian gamelan and dance, but also that of interactivecomputer music, culturally disparate elements which Bartlettprovocatively had students combine in composition and performance.At the Faculty of Music, University of Toronto, Dr. Annette Sanger,an ethnomusicologist specialist in the music of Bali, has directed herBalinese gamelan semar pegulingan performance course for overtwo decades. Spreading the music to new audiences in the 1980s Ifound myself among the first in Canada to lead occasional gamelanmusic workshops. They were held in Toronto on the Evergreen ClubGamelan’s set of degung instruments. In the 1990s and 2000s myteaching increased exponentially, introducing Torontonians to theJavanese gamelan at York University, the Royal Conservatory of Musicand to many thousands of students at the Toronto District SchoolBoard, among several other institutions. This year the Evergreen ClubContemporary Gamelan is celebrating its 30th season and most of theother gamelan ensembles and courses mentioned are still active, withother universities located on both east and west coasts introducingtheir own courses in the last decade.The Grebel Gamelan: The discovery of gamelan music by playingit is still taking place in Ontario. I was pleased to read recently thatConrad Grebel University College at the University of Waterloo establisheda Balinese gamelan and a course in the 2013 fall term. Dr.Maisie Sum, the newly appointed faculty member in Global Musicand the university’s first ethnomusicologist, teaches the course titled“World Music Ensemble: Gamelan Music of Bali” casually known asthe Grebel Gamelan. Moreover Sum’s incoming mandate includesthe expansion of “the study and performance of ‘world music’ inthe music program.” Music students can expect to be introduced “tounfamiliar sounds, to [discover] global music by actively participatingas listeners and music makers, and to encourage them to ask questionsand make connections with their own beliefs, values, and practices.”Will such wide-ranging – idealistic even – goals articulated inthis mission statement attract students, regional community engagementand listener participation?Seeking background on the story of the arrival of Waterloo’s firstgamelan I spoke to Sum at her office on a cold and rainy March 19afternoon. It turns out she is a product of the Canadian gamelanscene: “I’m a member of a Balinese gamelan in Montreal and receivedmy PhD in ethnomusicology from the University of British Columbia.”In Vancouver she studied (Balinese gamelan) gong kebyar withMichael Tenzer followed by years of music field work in Bali. “ConradGrebel’s gamelan semaradana, a kind of seven-tone Balinese instrumentalensemble, is currently rented from its New York owners,” shenoted, “but the university is exploring the purchase of its own setfor the long term.” There’s also the ever-pressing matter of where topermanently house a full gamelan which takes up considerable realestate, an issue that’s been problematic for many institutions. Sumseems confident, however, that solutions will be found given thevery positive, enthusiastic reception of the Grebel Gamelan courseand its performances by faculty, students and audiences: “Enrolmentfor the ensemble doubled in the winter term, so we currently havetwo groups.”What does having the first resident gamelan at Grebel/UW meanfor music discovery in the Kitchener-Waterloo region? “It is importantto us in many ways, some of which include broadening our students’musical and cultural awareness, and expressing our core values suchas community building, creativity, and global engagement,” Sumreplied. While the new ensemble is not yet playing all the varioustypes of instruments of the gamelan semaradana the Conrad GrebelGamelan Ensemble video clip from its November 27, 2013 noonhourconcert exudes confidence. Enthusiastic smiles abound and astanding ovation greets the musicians. The clip is on YouTube awaitingyour discovery. The group demonstrates a performance level belieingless than three months’ prep time between introducing the studentsto the instruments to the gig itself. This speaks volumes about theirdedication but also about the embedded quality and power of thecommunity musical tradition they passionately convey. It also speakshighly of the teaching skills of Sum and her expert Balinese guestmusician, I Dewa Made Suparta.Sum provided one more demonstration of music discovery, onewhich extends to transcultural community interaction. On February 2this year her Grebel Gamelan was invited to take part in a churchservice at the Rockway Mennonite Church in Kitchener. The membersof the congregation heard Grebel music theorist Carol Ann Weaverdeliver a cross-cultural sermon titled, “Gamelan as Gospel: CreatingCommunities of Peace,” exploring parallels between communalmusicking embedded in the performance of Balinese gamelan andMennonite notions of community.You can catch the Grebel Gamelan’s youthful energy at their concerton April 1 at 1:30pm in the Great Hall of the Student Life Centre at UWand the next day at noon at the Conrad Grebel chapel.A few other concert picks:April 1 at the Musideum, a fascinating blend of voices brings “Songsof Gaia meets the FreePlay Duo” to downtown Toronto’s living roomconcert hall. Vocalist Saina Singer and bassist George Koller meetthe FreePlay Duo (Suba Sankaran and Dylan Bell) in improvisationsborrowing from many global music traditions. While the other illustriousmusicians are no strangers to this column, Saina is. She’s fromthe Republic of Sakha (Yakutia) in the immense Siberian region ofRussia. Saina began singing in a local pop idiom but then shifted focusto learn songs of Siberian indigenous peoples directly from them,thereby deepening her understanding of her ancestral culture. Thesemusicians have not performed together before, so this concert promisesto be full of fresh Northern musical spontaneity.April 2 again at the Musideum two Toronto groups, The Horables andthe Friends of Markos perform “From Freygish to Phrygian, A night ofKlezmer and Greek music.” The Friends of Markos brings a rambunctiousand unpretentious energy to tunes rendered in the Greek rebetikostyle, while The Horables play the self-described “celebratory dancemusic of Eastern European Jews, as well as Gypsy dance tunes and someDjango-style jazz.” Sounds like a fun evening though the dance floorwill be tight.Also on April 2 – and bringing us back to our theme this month ofworld music discoveries in an educational setting – the University ofToronto Faculty of Music presents their semi-annual “World MusicEnsembles Concert” at Walter Hall, Edward Johnson Building. Thisedition features the African Drumming and Dancing Ensemble directedby Kwasi Dunyo, Mark Duggan’s Latin-American Percussion Ensembleand the Steel Pan Ensemble directed by Joe Cullen.April 29 Small World Music presents the CD release of Autorickshaw’sedgier-than-usual fourth albumThe Humours of Autorickshaw atLula Lounge. Mastermind producerAndrew Craig has woven an excitingstudio musical tapestry with a solid(and often cheeky) South and NorthIndian seam deftly employing theconsiderable and diverse talentsof Autorickshaw-ers vocalist SubaSuba SankaranSankaran and tabla wallah Ed Hanley.Thickening the rich arrangements is theglitter of Canadian instrumentalist talent including bassist Rich Brown,guitarists Justin Abedin, Kevin Breit and Adrian Eccleston, violinistJaron Freeman-Fox, accordionist Gordon Sheard, master drummerTrichy Sankaran, drummer Larnell Lewis, dilruba player George Koller,percussionist Patrick Graham. Will they all be performing at Lula?Andrew Timar is a Toronto musician and music writer. Hecan be contacted at worldmusic@thewholenote.com.30 | April 1 – May 7, 2014 thewholenote.com

Beat by Beat | Jazz NotesFor The BenefitOf The BandJIM GALLOWAYLast month Yale University Press released a book by the Americanphotographer and artist Lee Friedlander. Friedlander, born in1934, has spent years photographing the American social landscape,producing a vast amount of visual information. More than 20books of his work have been published and this latest is called Playingfor the Benefit of the Band. The title is from a 1958 interview withWarren “Baby” Dodds, one of the great drummers in jazz, now largelyforgotten, conducted by the New Orleans historian, William Russell.An edited version this interview acts as an introduction to the book.In it Dodds says: “And that’s the way I play. I play for the benefit of theband.” (There’s a lesson there for more than a few drummers today.)The subtitle of this book is New Orleans Music Culture and it isa collection of black and white photographs taken in New Orleansbetween 1957 and 1973. Many of the pictures are informal shots takenin the homes of the musicians, mostly players who did not join theexodus but remained part of the local scene, names such as BlindFreddie Small, “Show Boy” Thomas, Wooden Joe Nicholas, Ann “MamaCookie” Cook; the exceptions being photos of Louis Armstrong,Edmond Hall, Wellman Braud, Roosevelt Sykes and George Lewis.There is also a charming outdoor crowd scene in the midst of whichDuke Ellington is kissing Mahalia Jackson.Most Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays at noon or 5:30 p.m.“A beautiful room, interesting artists of all varietiesand it is free.”TORONTO STARcoc.ca 416-363-8231MEDIA SPONSORSShirantha Beddage performs in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre. Photo: Tim Flynn, 2013Creative: BT/Athewholenote.com April 1 – May 7, 2014 | 31

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